The Gift of a Sabbatical

But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Luke 5:16

This is one of my favorite Scriptures describing the leadership rhythms of Jesus. In the middle of a busy and hectic season of healing the sick, preaching to the multitudes and mentoring his core leaders, Jesus would simply disappear. His followers would frantically search for him, only to find him alone, praying, and restoring his own soul. He was putting on his own oxygen mask before attempting to help others.

It’s important we pay careful attention to the lifestyle Jesus modeled, and that’s why sabbaticals are a part of our ethos here at New Life. Every full-time employee receives this gift and we encourage them to take advantage. We believe these times are critical for the health of our team and for our congregation.

This Summer, it’s my turn for a much needed sabbatical. I will be gone for several weeks, but the congregation will be led during my time away by the strong team God has given us. The preaching will be handled, primarily, by Glenn Packiam, Daniel Grothe and Andrew Arndt. I’m thankful for each of them.

The elders and I have been planning for this extended time away for months now, with three primary goals.

1. Rest

I’m grateful I’m not wrestling with burnout as I enter this sabbatical. In fact, I am more energized and encouraged than ever. My family and I have strived to follow the principles of rest, solitude, and Sabbath for many years now. In fact, I talk about these life-giving principles in my book, Addicted to Busy. However, I’m sure I’ve underestimated the physical, emotional and mental toll these past years have taken on my family. I know I need to rest, and so I will.

2. Reflect

A lot has happened in the past few years, both in the church and within my family. I don’t want to miss anything God is showing me, so I need to pause, reflect, and journal all my thoughts from these amazing and challenging years. I want to have unhurried conversations with Pam, my wife of almost 30 years, and with my two adult children, who are racing toward college and careers. I will also spend some much needed time with mentors and close friends to get their wise perspectives.

3. Recharge

The last goal is to simply recharge my batteries for the days, years and decades ahead. New Life is growing and healthy. Our team is amazing and the best days for our congregation are still in front of us. I want to be re-energized to serve alongside all of you with a renewed spiritual vitality. I want to sharpen my spiritual disciplines, lose some middle-aged weight, eat better and exercise regularly so I can finish this race as strong as I started.

Thank you for giving me this gift of a sabbatical. I promise to steward this time well. Have a great summer!

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3 Comments

  1. Susan Kerkhoff

    May 26, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks for your clear biblical message on a sabbatical. I agree 100% and glad NLC has gifted you and your family with this. Be refreshed 🙏🤗

  2. Thank you for always giving us a clear message of God’s word! I am glad you are getting to take this time to rest and reflect! God bless you and your family!

  3. My favorite word in Luke 5:16 is “often.” This verse jumped out at me many years ago when I was struggling with suicidal depression and incapable of engaging in the busy lifestyle Americans admire and promote. Jesus didn’t succumb to this kind of pressure—He “often” went away by Himself to pray.

    A Bible teacher recently used the words, “inefficient providence” to draw our class’s attention to the gap between our human assumptions and God’s wisdom in ordaining periods of “inefficiency” in all of our lives. Of course the teacher wasn’t saying that God is in fact inefficient, but it got me wondering why He set things up this way. Take sleep. Why on earth are we required to spend so much time unconscious and inactive? Doesn’t God realize how much more we could accomplish for His Kingdom if we put those hours to better use?

    And what about the Sabbath rest? Why does God command us to rest from our labors when there’s so much work to be done? I imagine myself following Moses in the desert on the way to the Promised Land, spending the Sabbath glancing up at the sky every few minutes wondering if the sun is ever going to set, impatiently tapping my foot and making a mental to-do list for tomorrow, worrying about all the little necessities that aren’t getting done, rather than praising God for supplying my food and water and shelter and for providing a much-needed rest. (Adapted from my blog at https://thosewhoweep.blogspot.com/2019/01/gods-inefficiency.html.)

    Thank you and your church for modeling a biblical rhythm and lifestyle. Have a restful sabbatical!

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